The Albia Blue Demon Cross Country team came out and put on a display for the home crowd as they ran their way to a decisive win over 1A #8 ranked Pekin as well as conference foe, Knoxville to claim the Albia Invitational team title for the second straight year. The race featured five state ranked runners, three from 1A and two from 2A.

Juniors Brock Ratliff and Landon Noe, along with fellow 2018 individual state qualifier Dawson Bonnett led the fury up front with a 4th-5th-6th place finish overall. “These three guys put it out there tonight,” said Coach Todd Ratliff. “They had a solid start and except for the jockeying for position within their ranks, maintained these three spots all night. They run so hard, it is fun to watch. Dawson really showed some guts to stay right on the heals of Brock and Landon.”

Ratliff finished in 4th in a time of 18:08, exactly a minute ahead of his time last year on the same course. Noe was 5th in 18:28, a 34 second improvement, with Bonnett cutting 64 seconds from a year ago.

Colton Glosser (Pekin), Brady Milikin (Pekin), and Emery Sage (Melcher-Dallas), all ranked runners in 1A went 1-2-3. Glosser’s winning time was 17:02.

Barrett Bonnett, senior, in his first actual cross country meet, and only second 5K of his life, finished fourth for the Blue Demons and 13th overall with a time of 19:59 with Max Teno and Cody Dalman breaking the tape in 16th and 17th in 20:03 and 20:06 respectively to put the victory in the hands of the Blue Demons. (Teno was 67 seconds faster than a year ago with Dalman dropping 2:42.) “All three of these young men ran smart races. Cody and Max paced the way as the three packed up in close proximity of each other early, and made moves together,” said Coach Ratliff. “These three will prove to be key to the overall team success as we move into the season.”

Rounding out the varsity, in his first ever varsity finish was sophomore Gavin McMurray in a time of 20:59 in 28th place. “I’m so proud of the last 45 days of work this young man has put in. He ran a 25:20 a year ago, and today, sub 21,” said the coach.

The depth of the Blue Demons showed through the race as six additional runners were able to race through the course in less than 22 minutes. Leading the way was freshman John Pistek in 30th place with a 21:07, Travis Sheffield in 21:36 for 32nd place and a time drop of three and a half minutes from 2018, CJ Ratliff in 21:40 in 33rd, Michael Thomas in 21:44 (35th), Elijah Smith 21:53 a drop of seven minutes (36th), and Logan Stalzer in 21:58, a drop of 2:19 faster than in 2018 (37th). “This group of guys worked hard and gave what they had in the tank,” said Coach Ratliff. “I think that at any given time any of these guys will step up and contend for the varsity scoring. John had a really solid showing in his first ever high school varsity meet and will be fun to watch mature as the season gets going.”

Also battling the course and the heat for the Blue Demons and most showing a time drop from a season ago were Adam Sheffield (39th-22:16), Logan Carter a minute and 40 seconds faster (41st-22:23), Eli Zanoni 31 seconds faster (45th-22:46), Austin Stanley with a six-minute drop (53rd-23:46), Wyatt Jourdan (59th-24:22), David Thomas (26:21-72nd), Wyatt McGee (80th-30:28), Steven Pemberton (81st-31:15), and Caelen Robinson (31:24).

“From the hill on the north side of the Rez’ I was able to see about 90 percent of the race. It was enjoyable to watch as the athletes put into effect the hard work they have been putting in,” said Coach Ratliff.

“This meet was so much like the start of our season last year. It was opening day at the Rez, it was hot (not as hot as a year ago, but still pretty warm), scores in the top three teams were almost identical to a year ago. In fact, the first seven runners today were the same as last year’s top seven. If it is a sign on where our season will lead this year, I am pretty excited,” said the coach. “These kids know they have a ton of hard work to put in, but I think they are willing to do it.”

Team scores were as follows: Albia 44, Pekin 67, Knoxville 69, Van Buren 108, Wayne 127, Centerville 144, Melcher Dallas 168, and Moravia 196.

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